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GDPR Compliance: Process, Communications & Testing


In last week’s post we covered the basics of GDPR and new data privacy regulations as well as preparation of your contact data and CRM system to accommodate new data privacy information. (In case you missed it, read “GDPR Compliance: How to Prepare and Where to Begin”).

Now, with your CRM data prepared and your system configured to manage the new data privacy requirements, you’re ready to address processes, automation, and communication with your clients and contacts.

Create the Process

The specifics of automation will vary depending on your organization’s interpretation of the new data privacy regulations as well as the CRM and eMarketing systems in use. However, at its core, this automation will be based on a daily query, search or report that looks at the value of the Date of Consent field and determines if the value is blank or, depending on the firm’s interpretation of CASL, more than two years old. If either one of those conditions is true, the contact will need to be added to a suppression list, which is used by your eMarketing application to block the sending of emails to any contact on that list. You will also need the converse search that finds any contact record on the suppression list that does have valid consent data to account for anyone who gave consent since the last time the search was run. Those contacts would then be removed from the suppression list and become eligible to receive the mailings they have indicated they wanted.

If your firm has relied on the CASL provision for implied consent, you will also need a separate process that identifies implied consent contacts where consent date is two years minus X days/months old and puts those contacts on a renewal list. If your eMarketing system supports it, those contacts may be able to automatically receive consent emails without any human intervention, but once the two-year mark has passed for contacts with implied consent, you will no longer be able to email them without updating the implied consent date. Automated processes must include moving those contacts from the renewal list to the suppression list. This is an added layer of complexity that can be avoided if your firm interprets CASL to not rely on implied consent, but rather requires express consent from all Canadian contacts.

Create the Communications

It stands to reason that any process that requires gathering consent also requires communications with the contacts for whom consent must be gathered. Ideally, these communications can be drafted, revised and finalized while the CRM and eMarketing system pieces are being created. It will be important to keep in mind that any message or form asking for consent should use clear and simple language, state plainly what is being consented to, contains your organization’s contact information and requires a positive indication of consent, which means pre-filled checkboxes are not acceptable. This is true for both CASL and GDPR.

In addition to the external communications, firms should consider implementing an internal communication plan that explains these regulations, what the firm’s interpretation of each is and the subsequent impact on operations. For example, if your professionals typically add their new contacts to mailing lists, they should be informed that non-U.S. contacts will not automatically receive mailings such as newsletters or event invitations until those contacts have given consent.

Document Thoroughly and Test Often

Process documentation in professional services firms is often an afterthought that may or may not be addressed depending on what else needs to be done. Documentation of processes regarding GDPR and CASL, however, should be considered a necessary step of the processes themselves. This is not a “nice to do” situation – this is a requirement of GDPR. If your process changes over time for any reason, be sure the documentation is updated as well. Consider having ownership of this process and documentation written into the job description of one or more employees. New employees will need to be familiar with the processes they are inheriting. Finally, periodic testing should be performed to ensure that any automatic processes have not been adversely affected by system updates or other changes to the firm’s infrastructure.

The Changing Landscape

When dealing with compliance in the area of anti-spam and privacy regulations such as these, it’s important to note that some of these laws are new and additional ones are being developed throughout the world. This means that the compliance landscape is constantly changing. Additionally, many of the existing regulations have not yet been thoroughly tested. As a result, some of the guidance and best practices may change as new developments occur. The purpose of this article is to provide general guidance and best practices for professional services firms on the development of their compliance programs. The steps outlined in this article should not be seen as prescriptive, but rather as illustrative. This article is also not intended to be exhaustive since each firm will have unique existing systems and unique processes that will need to be considered.

If you need assistance with your firm’s specific circumstances, or you just don’t have enough resources to dedicate to the development or implementation of these processes, CLIENTSFirst can help.

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